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What is the Most Popular Web Server Application in 2022?

 / March 28, 2022

You’re reading this article on a browser. From a visitor’s standpoint, you can easily access it from any Internet-connected device with only a few simple manipulations. But in fact, the behind-the-scenes process is more complicated. And one indispensable factor in this procedure is a web server. You have possibly heard of this terminology many times, yet do you grasp what it is? And what is the most popular web server application you should factor in? Let’s find out the answers with Designveloper. 

What is a Web Server?

What is a Web Server?

When learning about a web server, you should consider both of its sides: computer software and physical hardware. These two aspects work effectively together to ensure a user’s requests will be seamlessly processed. 

  • In the software term: Most web servers use the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or its secure extension HTTPS to communicate with web browsers. Thus they’re known as HTTP servers. These servers function as software that manages a user’s access to hosted files on databases. After a user enters the targeted website’s domain name or URL (web addresses, say, https://www.designveloper.com), an HTTP server receives and processes a request. It then gives the website’s expected content to the visitor’s device. 
  • In the hardware term: A web server acts as a computer that contains an HTTP server (web server software) and a website’s data or files (e.g. images, JavaScript files, or HTML documents). A physical web server connects with other devices through the Internet for data exchanges. A high-traffic website may require numerous physical web servers.
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3. Web Application Development Tutorial: The Ultimate Guide For Beginners
4. Web App Development: What Happens Behind The 5 Stages?
Web application topic

How does a Web Server Work?

How does a Web Server Work?

In the back-end, a web browser requires a hosted file from a web server through HTTP. When the request comes to the right web server (hardware), an HTTP server (software) seeks the requested file. The server then delivers it to the browser through HTTP as well. 

Below are details of some critical steps in this procedure:

Hosting Files

Firstly, all requested files must be stored in a web server in the form of HTML documents, JavaScript files, CSS style sheets, videos, and images. 

Web makers should assign their database to a dedicated web server which is frequently maintained by a hosting service provider. Not only does such a server help prevent system-related and downtime troubles. But websites can also take full advantage of their resources (i.e. RAM or CPU) to improve maximum uptime, site speed, security and flexibility. 

Communicating Through HTTP

HTTP is a common protocol that consists of rules for systems to communicate together. Today, websites use either HTTP or HTTPS – HTTP with higher encryption – to process a user’s request. 

After receiving the requested URL, an HTTP server will check whether it fits any existing document stored therein. If so, the server will promptly send it to a user’s device. Otherwise, an application server will create a requested file. In case none of these two possibilities happens, the web server will deliver a 404 message back.

Serve Static or Dynamic Web Content

A web server can be either static or dynamic. 

  • A static web server includes an HTTP server (software) and a physical web server (hardware). The server delivers its available files upon requests to a user’s browser.
  • A dynamic web server includes a static web server and additional software which is mostly a database and an application server. Normally, dynamic content is updated and generated by an application server from a database at the time of request before being delivered by an HTTP server to a user’s device.

Take Wikipedia as a typical example. This website includes some HTML templates (static content) and a massive database rather than a pile of static HTML documents. Whenever a user requests a particular webpage, an application server adds requested content from a database into an HTML template. This dynamic content is then sent to a web browser. So for you to see a webpage on any device, static and dynamic web servers are indispensable. 

In February 2022, Netcraft, the UK-based Internet services company, released a brief report on the popularity of web server applications. This report helps you answer the main question of this article, “What is the most popular web server application you should consider?”. And once again, Nginx continues retaining its leading position, with 32.29% of the webserver market share. 

web server developers market share of all sites

Nginx has two versions. Nginx Open Source is a highly performant, open-source web server. Meanwhile, its paid variant, Nginx Plus, is equipped with more advanced features. Since its official release in 2014, the application has gained growing popularity. And until the first quarter of 2019, Nginx surpassed Apache to become the most commonly used web server. Some famous websites and web applications adopting this solution include Pinterest, Netflix, Airbnb, and GitHub.  

Some of its outstanding advantages involve:

  • A decent option for high-traffic sites because the server is capable of handling more than 10,000 connections smoothly at the same time;
  • Be compatible with IPv6, the latest IP version;
  • Be considered as a front-end proxy (reserve proxy) that allows the extraction of data from one server or more;
  • Allow load balancing that distributes incoming requests effectively to numerous back-end servers to promptly meet high volumes of requests from users;
  • Adopt an asynchronous event-driven architecture that consumes low memory. 

Other Web Server Applications to Consider in 2022

Nginx is the key answer to the question of “What is the most popular web server application in 2022?”. But it’s not the only candidate you should consider for your websites or web applications. The web server market also witnesses the significant growth of other noticeable names as follows:

Apache

apache company

Like Nginx Open Source, Apache is a free, cross-platform web server released in 1995. So there’s no denying that this approach plays a critical role in the initial development of websites. Although the application has lost its market share in recent years, it’s still one of the two leading web servers, with 23.68% of the market share. Further, it’s considered a stable, reliable option for both small and large projects, typically Shopify, Salesforce, or Dropbox. 

Some of its outstanding advantages involve:

  • Offer a big collection of MultiProcessing Modules (MPMs) that enables Apache to operate effectively based on each infrastructure’s specific needs;
  • Support a myriad of features and modules that enhance core functionality;
  • Have a large community, which accordingly supports security releases and updates more often;
  • Customize server configurations through .htaccess;
  • Be compatible with IPv6.

OpenResty

OpenResty company

OpenResty is an Nginx-based web server that uses the scripting middleware LuaJIT to run Lua scripts. It supports developers to create scalable web services, web apps, and dynamic web gateways. In February 2022, Netcraft witnessed the strongest growth rate of OpenResty, with over 10 million sites and 546,000 domains using this server. 

Some of its outstanding advantages involve:

  • Provide an event-driven architecture;
  • Integrate the Nginx core functionality’s updated version, upgraded LuaJIT version, third-party Nginx modules and more to develop high-performing web apps that can process multiple connections concurrently.

Cloudflare

Cloudflare company

If you’re learning about what the most popular web server application is for the top million busiest sites, it’s impossible to ignore Cloudflare. Following Apache and Nginx, this approach takes the third position, with 19.41% of the market share. And it’s expected to obtain stronger gains in this segment because it’s more used for high-traffic sites, according to the W3Tech. 

Cloudflare is easily set up. Further, it allows you to build websites or web apps on any platform without additional hardware, software, or codebase changes. 

Some of its outstanding advantages involve:

  • Remove superfluous characters to reduce the file size, thus expediting the page load;
  • Mitigate potential vulnerabilities using DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extension);
  • Leverage browser caching with simple manipulations in the Caching tab;
  • Use AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to boost a mobile content’s performance and speed. 

IIS

IIS

Initially published by Microsoft in 1995, IIS (Internet Information Services) is a highly performant web server and also an important cog in the Windows NT wheel. It’s designed mostly for static sites and ASP.NET web apps. 

Some of its outstanding advantages involve:

  • Come with a modular web application architecture that eases the addition and removal of modules or extensions;
  • Offer various authentication solutions and built-in security functions;
  • Use Database Manager to control remote and local data with ease.

LiteSpeed

LiteSpeed company

Originally introduced by LiteSpeed Technologies in 2003, LiteSpeed is a proprietary web server. The company offers both open-source and paid versions. The former, known as OpenLiteSpeed, eliminate some features and is considered less stable than its paid counterpart. Meanwhile, the latter comes with two kinds of paid licenses as follows: Site Owner and Web Host. 

Some of its outstanding advantages involve:

  • Securely manage a wide range of simultaneous visitors with low memory and CPU resource consumption;
  • Adopt the same configuration as Apache, hence has high compatibility with multiple Apache features and common control panels (e.g. DirectAdmin and Plesk);
  • Use an event-centric architecture to process requests. 

Conclusion

Through the article, Designveloper expects to help you find the correct answer for the question “What is the most popular web server application in 2022?”. Apart from the popular names mentioned in this list, you can ponder other existing alternatives. In short, choosing a web server depends much on your web project’s goals and requirements.

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